Boat capsizes continue to kill hundreds

Two overloaded river boats capsized in unrelated incidents in Congo in September 2010,  killing about 270 people.

Congo has experienced series of boat accidents recently. In July 2010, a boat capsized near Congo’s capital, killing 80 people. In May, an overloaded canoe in eastern Congo took the life of dozens, In November 2009,  90 people drowned after a boat sank in a lake.

In the early hours of a Saturday morning, a boat loaded with 100 passengers en route to northwest Equateur province, sailed without using a beam light, and capsized after slamming into a rock.

About 70 of the people on board are believed dead. According to local officials, lack of lighting caused the incident, AP reported.

In another unrelated accident, a vessel in Kasai Occidental province in southern Congo was overloaded with passengers, caught fire, and capsized. About 200 people are believed to have drowned in this incident.

According to survivors, local fishermen ignored passengers’ cries for help and approached the capsized boat only for looting goods. The crew was arrested, but refused to reveal the number of passengers.

In Congo many people travel by boats, which are often old and in ill repair. They are also overloaded and not properly secured. Passengers habitually take livestock aboard, and prepare meals aboard.

Africa’s great lakes are served by several boats, mostly old, poorly maintained and operated, and overloaded. The practice had caused several disasters, but legislation and enforcement remain powerless in the face of low investment levels and expedience.

Africans seem to accept travel disasters as part of fate, or of modern life. Operators, crew, authorities and passengers allow the practice of poor maintenance, risky procedures, and overloading to continue.

PHOTO; Lake Tanganyika fishermen.

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